Tag Archives: Immigration

IMMIGRATION: Twenty-five faith organizations ask appropriators to eliminate the immigrant bed quota

from FCNL

[NOTE: Pax Christi USA signed onto this letter.]

Dear Members of the United States House of Representatives and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Homeland Security,

Immigration-piece-ToniWe, the undersigned faith-based organizations, write to urge you to eliminate the immigrant bed quota currently required in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget.

The stipulation in the DHS appropriations legislation states that, “funding made available under this heading shall maintain a level of not less than 34,000 detention beds.” Some members of Congress have interpreted this in recent years to mean that the U.S. government should be filling all of those 34,000 beds at all times, not just maintaining them for potential use. Neither the appropriations language nor this interpretation is in line with the values of our many faith traditions.

We are called as people of faith to seek just and humane policies for our communities, our congregations and our country. We are told in the Bible that “You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). Adhering to an arbitrarily determined detention quota is exceptional for any agency, but it is particularly alarming in the context of our nation’s immigration system. By mandating that 34,000 beds be maintained any given time, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents face pressure to round up and detain community members for longer than necessary. The institutional pressure to fill already-paid-for beds comes at the expense of ICE agents exercising essential discretion in their day-to-day jobs and exacerbates the traumatizing effects of detention on immigrant communities…

Click here to read the entire letter.

TAKE ACTION: Stand with Pope Francis in welcoming migrants

from the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Pope Francis prays at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pope Francis prays at the U.S.-Mexico border.

On February 17, Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Juarez, Mexico. At least 450,000 people were estimated to attend on both sides of the U.S.–Mexico border. His visit is an opportunity to reshape the global conversation on migration and borders.

No doubt Pope Francis will continue to acknowledge the realities of migration – abuse and death on the journey, incarceration of asylum-seekers, divided families, social isolation and exploitation. These realities are often omitted from politicized “immigration” debates.

Click here to ask President Obama and Congress to commit to humane policies that respond to the realities of migration.


STATEMENT: We are called to build the Beloved Community

The following statement was issued by the Pax Christi USA National Council at their January 29-31, 2016 meeting in Bay Saint Louis, MS.


The National Council of Pax Christi USA, at its recent January 2016 meeting, reflected on the challenge of building of the Beloved Community.  In reading the signs of our times, we recognized the destructive political discourse currently gripping our society and call on all Pax Christi USA members and all people of good will to reject the language of violence and disrespect against women, Muslims, immigrants, communities of color and people living in poverty.

In addition, destructive policies and practices that harm our shared creation must also be denounced as acts of violence.

We pledge ourselves to speaking with respect and dignity to all persons, regardless of their political and religious stances, for they too are our brothers and sisters.  Thus we contribute to building the Beloved Community together, while caring for the earth, our common home.

Pax Christi USA will be holding their 2016 National Assembly, “Building the Beloved Community: Addressing Our Signs of the Times with Bold Conversations Leading to Transformative Actions”, in Baltimore, Maryland, August 12-14, 2016.

REFLECTION: The United States is having an identity crisis

Joan Chittister, osbby Joan Chittister, osb
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

The 19th century was a period of public and political turmoil in Russia, which is perhaps why the influential novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky is said to have commented, “To live without hope is to cease to live.” Perhaps Americans have never understood that feeling better than we can now. We are also facing grave national choices in a whirlpool of public and political turmoil. The way ahead is uncertain and the voices of leadership are tangled. It is time to consider what role we play as Americans when hope is at a premium for many and our own very definition of self is stake.

The images of refugees streaming across Europe, clinging to overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean Sea, huddled in the middle of rubble in bombed out villages in the Middle East is almost more than I can take. It is as if the world has fallen down around us, as if all of us went to bed one night and woke up the next morning on a different planet. Most damaging of all, it is a planet I do not want to be on. Why? Because this is a planet I grew up believing would never exist. At least not here. Not in the United States. This has become a planet at war with itself.

Immigration rallyThe United States, I was told as I grew, was a land with an open heart, a land of mixed cultures but one soul. A land made strong and creative by immigrants, it had become a melting pot of ideas. Thanks to all the citizens of the world who came here to escape poverty and oppression, war and destruction, a cross section of the world worked together here to turn its land and build its buildings and staff its business and shape its future.

Most of all, it was a land in which the culture of others mixed its customs with our own so that we could all be proud to be Irish and Italian, Polish and Hispanic, African and Asian, Christian and Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim, Hindu and Orthodox — “American” — because so many had come as immigrants to add to the DNA of it.

At the same time, it was not an easy process for any of them, we know. We remember “Irish need not apply,” the “Chinese Exclusion Act,” “white drinking fountains” and, on election day, non-Catholic presidents only. But, given the time it takes for one worldview to become integrated with another, it did, in the end, always work....

Read the entire article by clicking here.

IMMIGRATION: Pax Christi USA signs onto letter calling on Congress to oppose immigration policy riders in FY2016 appropriations bill

Pax Christi USA signed onto the following letter initiated by the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Dear Members of Congress:

On behalf of the 45 undersigned organizations, we strongly urge Congress to pass a Fiscal Year (“FY”) 2016 appropriations bill free of immigration policy riders.

(1) Congress should oppose riders that withhold federal funds from, or deny federal assistance to, localities with so-called “sanctuary” policies.

In recent months some Members have sought to punish San Francisco and other so-called “sanctuary” cities through the denial of federal funding and assistance. Such a denial would unfairly punish cities based on an erroneous premise. The term “sanctuary” cities invokes a false myth that certain cities are free from immigration enforcement. That is simply not true. Through the automatic sharing of fingerprints obtained at booking, law enforcement agencies in all localities immediately notify Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) of every single individual taken into state or local custody.

To date, no legislation punishing “sanctuary” cities has passed both chambers, despite various efforts. Since Congress has declined to pass legislation aimed at financially punishing “sanctuary” cities, Congress should reject any attempts to use the appropriations process to slip controversial policy changes into the FY16 omnibus bill…

Click here to read the entire letter.

TAKE ACTION: Protect deserving, carefully vetted Syrian and Iraqi refugees and their families fleeing violence and death

from Justice for Immigrants

jfiBackground: In the aftermath of the violent attacks on Paris, 31 governors made public statements that they wanted resettlement of Syrian refugees halted in their states. Days later, the U.S. House of Representatives, with comparable intentions, passed H.R. 4038, The American Security against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act, which would effectively halt all resettlement of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the United States for a protracted time.

The week after Thanksgiving, the same bill or similar legislation will likely be introduced and voted on in the U.S. Senate, and even worse legislation may continue to be introduced. Meanwhile, some federal lawmakers may also try to use the Omnibus appropriations bill that must be passed by December 11th as a vehicle for securing passage of the SAFE Act or similar legislation.

On November 17th, Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, Chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration, issued a statement which said, in part, “I am disturbed…by calls from both federal and state officials for an end to the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States. These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives. We cannot and should not blame them for the actions of a terrorist organization.”…

Click here to read this full alert and take action now.

IMMIGRATION: Immigration – whose responsibility?

by Tom Webb, Pax Christi Northern California

Justice and dignity for all immigrantsAs the debates among contenders for the Republican and Democratic nominations for president rage on, it’s clear that the immigration will be one of the more closely watched issues in next year’s political campaigns.  Positions range from Donald Trump’s “deport them all” to those who argue that expanding border security by making the entire country of Mexico a buffer zone to stem the flow of immigrants are laid out as options.

But in August a group of seventeen interfaith clergy and lay religious leaders from across the United States made a ten day pilgrimage to Honduras and Guatemala organized by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. Our purpose was to learn from clerical and lay leaders of Catholic and Protestant denominations and academics who provided direct services or researched immigration issues.about the deeper, unreported causes of the violence and poverty.  What we learned  paints a far darker and complex picture than aspirants for political office and those in positions of political power may offer,

Faith leaders in northern Honduras near the city of San Pedro Sula posed these problems to us.  How does one respond when a consortium of U.S.-based hydroelectric interests  who are part of the Central American Electrical Interconnection System (SIEPC) forcibly drive people from their small, rural communities into crime-ridden and desperate urban neighborhoods in a wild plan to subvert water from four rivers for a dam which in seventy or eighty years may provide electricity to the United States?  And when leaders of these faith communities begin organizing community members against these interests and discover their lives are threatened on multiple levels, who is to blame?

And what may one say when Chinese and U.S. mining interests in Honduras eager to explore for gold, silver and lead destroy the ecological systems which have sustained rural communities for generations?  And when such interests are granted impunity to mine without cost create environmental collateral damage who should bear the burden of the cost?

Or one may consider the plight of the Garifuna people who are simple fishing people or rural farmers who’ve lived in Honduras and Guatemala since the mid-18th century.  In Honduras they are now being driven from the villages on the Caribbean coast by armed, government forces and accused of “environmental terrorism”.  Meanwhile,  a newly-built five star is spewing waste into nearby water systems.  Over half of the villagers had left many of whom had either immigrated to tried to immigrate to the U.S. to seek a new opportunities.

How may one respond when land reform in both countries has been routinely undermined to benefit big agriculture interests ranging from the now defunct United Fruit Company and its heir Chiquita not to mention African palm growers whose palm oil find their way into products ranging from Doritos, dietary supplements and Mazzola products?  And what country has been covertly involved in supporting such interests?

Or consider textile firms in Honduras some of whom are given unimaginable liberties reign in so-called “free trade zones” to open up the 21st century equivalent of sweatshops.  They pay abhorrent wages by any reasonable standard and employ and discard young women as they see fit to compete in the global market?   

In Honduras and Guatemala rampant corruption on multiple levels in the national government has been endemic for generation.  We were told  “…they’ve stolen everything from us even our fear”.  And that desperate fearlessness contributed in early September to the resignation of their former Guatemalan president Otto Perez-Molina and  his entire entire cabinet..  He has since been incarcerated  on scandalous charges of skimming money from customs which amounted to 30% of the national budget.  Over sixty thousand people had demonstrated weekly since April to protest the arrogance and now proven culpability of national leaders for their crimes.

In Honduras each Friday and Saturday thousands of citizens poor and middle class alike pack the streets of eighty cities, towns and villages across the country participating in the “Anatorches” marches. They gather to protest the corruption of the president Juan Hernandez who came into office following the coup tacitly supported by U.S. interests which forcibly removed democratically-elected President Zelaya from office in 2009. They march to protest the blatant abuse of public trust where evidence points to kick-back scandals where national leaders have literally stolen millions of dollars from the nation’s healthcare system.  

And when a country is driven to such depths by such outrageous practices which collectively crush it’s poorest citizens what are they to do?  According to the Catholic Bishop Alvaro Ramazzini of Huehuetenango, 98% of Guatemalans are unemployed depending on the informal economy or part-time work to sustains themselves.  Should it surprise anyone that $5.2 billion a year in remittances is sent from the United States from Guatemalans living here to their families?  Aren’t they “acting on behalf of their own best interests” by immigrating according to the paradigm espoused by our contemporary economic scions?

In the over twenty meetings we had during our visit every single group with whom we met fervently urged us to oppose the Obama Administration’s proposed Alliance for Prosperity.  Modeled after one promoted in the early 1960’s by President Kennedy it would in fact promote radical insecurity. Of its proposed $1.2 billion in aid to the so-called “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, 60% would be given for “security” purposes.  While companies like Lockheed-Martin, Bell Helicopters,  AM Sales and Colt will certainly benefit, the promised security will inevitably crack down on civilian dissent while the drug traffickers closely aligned with national political interests will continue unimpeded.  Another 30% will be doled out to transnational corporations to contribute to their looting of human and natural resources.

We beseech and urge our fellow citizens to educate themselves about the real root causes of immigration from Central America.  And in doing so that accusatory finger pointed at undocumented people may slowly need to be re-directed to those who are truly accountable for the immigration crisis.

Tom Webb is a member of Pax Christi Northern California’s regional council, a staff member of the Oakland Catholic Worker and a participant in a ten day pilgrimage last August to Honduras and Guatemala organized by the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity. He is also a journalist writing for the Oakland Voices project of the Oakland Tribune.